IMO: Teaching German with Songs and Pretzels

Guten Tag!

I have 90 German students this year. Like many World Language teachers, it’s a no-brainer to implement the song of the week. I picked Peter Fox’s “Haus um See”. Students get parallel texts and link favorite words or lines as a fun way to associate what they’ve learned in context. Educating aside, as a lover of music, I’m having a fun time finding new artists with catchy melodies and beautiful lyrics. Not only does Peter Fox’s song sound like a whimsical revisit to the 1960s, but the lyrics also describe his idea of the perfect life capturing like a snapshot with images in words.

Here I was born and I run through the streets
Know every house, every store, and every face
I need to leave; know every pigeon here by name
Thumb’s out, waitin’ for a snazzy lady with speedy wheels
The sun’s blinding, everything flies by
The world behind me gets slowly undersized
Still, the world in front of me is made for me
I know she’s waiting – I’ll go pick her up
Have the day on my side, got a tailwind too
A roadside women’s choir sings for me, they do
I’ll sit back and look into the deep blue
Close my eyes and simply walk straight ahead

And at the end of the lane, there’s a house by the lake
Orange tree leaves lay on the way
I have 20 children, my wife is beautiful
Everybody drops by, no need to go out

I’m looking for a country with unfamiliar lanes
Unfamiliar faces – where no one knows my name
Win everything I play with cards that are marked
Lose everything – God’s left hook is actually quite hard
I dig treasures from the snow and sand
And women rob me of any sense I have
Someday that luck will follow me home
And I’ll come back with both pockets full of gold
I’ll invite the old folks and relatives over
And they all begin to cry tears of joy
We’ll barbecue, the mamas cook, and we slam some schnapps
And party for a week every night

And the moon shines brightly on my house by the lake
Orange tree leaves lay on the way
I have 20 children, my wife is stout
Everybody drops by, no need to go out

Here I was born; here I’ll be buried
Have lost my hearing, have a white beard; I sit in the garden
My 100 grandkids play cricket on the lawn
If I think about it, I can actually hardly wait…

Haus Am See>House by the Lake

Hier bin ich gebor’n und laufe durch die Straßen!
Kenn die Gesichter, jedes Haus und jeden Laden!
Ich muss mal weg, kenn jede Taube hier beim Namen.
Daumen raus ich warte auf ‘ne schicke Frau mit schnellem Wagen.
Die Sonne blendet alles fliegt vorbei.
Und die Welt hinter mir wird langsam klein.
Doch die Welt vor mir ist für mich gemacht!
Ich weiß sie wartet und ich hol sie ab!
Ich hab den Tag auf meiner Seite ich hab Rückenwind!
Ein Frauenchor am Straßenrand der für mich singt!
Ich lehne mich zurück und guck ins tiefe Blau,
schließ die Augen und lauf einfach gradeaus.

Und am Ende der Strasse steht ein Haus am See.
Orangenbaumblätter liegen auf dem Weg.
Ich hab 20 Kinder meine Frau ist schön.
Alle kommen vorbei ich brauch nie rauszugehen.

Im Traum gesehen, das Haus am See

Ich suche neues Land
Mit unbekannten Strassen, fremden Gesichtern und keiner kennt meinen Namen!
Alles gewinnen beim Spiel mit gezinkten Karten.
Alles verlieren, Gott zeigt seinen harten linken Haken.
Ich grabe Schätze aus im Schnee und Sand.
Und Frauen rauben mir jeden Verstand!
Doch irgendwann werd ich vom Glück verfolgt.
Und komm zurück mit beiden Taschen voll Gold.
Ich lad’ die alten Vögel und Verwandten ein.
Und alle fang’n vor Freude an zu weinen.
Wir grillen, die Mamas kochen und wir saufen Schnaps.
Und feiern eine Woche jede Nacht.

Und der Mond scheint hell auf mein Haus am See.
Organgenbaumblätter liegen auf dem Weg.
Ich hab 20 Kinder meine Frau ist schön.
Alle kommen vorbei ich brauch nie rauszugehen.

Im Traum gesehen, das Haus am See

Und am Ende der Strasse steht ein Haus am See.
Organgenbaumblätter liegen auf dem Weg.
Ich hab 20 Kinder meine Frau ist schön.
Alle kommen vorbei ich brauch nie rauszugehen.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Hier bin ich gebor’n, hier werd ich begraben.
Hab taube Ohr’n, nen weißen Bart und sitz im Garten.
Meine 100 Enkel spielen Cricket auf’m Rasen.
Wenn ich so daran denke kann ich’s eigentlich kaum erwarten.

Image result for pretzels

I was raised with the notion that a way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. To catch a man, it helps if you make him something delectable from scratch. It’s a perk in his estimation. Much the same way a man who can fix anything makes him more valuable. For example, my cooking helped Jim decide I was a worthy catch much as Jim being able to fix anything helped me decide I wanted to share my life with him. What is a good pair, after all, but the ability to share talents so that life is better for both parties? Okay, I digress.

Using this principle with teenagers, students discovered that making food with friends, and then eating it, is as much fun as any event they can think of. Yesterday, they made pretzels. At lunch, twenty German students were curious and stopped by my room. I set up workstations with the ingredients in the center. We had previewed the day before what was going to happen. They had their recipe. Many had no idea how to measure or follow a recipe. They thought it was fun to knead. Ah, the magic of yeast, warm milk, and a little sugar!

Covered in the corner of my room, the dough “babies” rose all afternoon. At 3:30, we took our bowls to the cafeteria where the school kitchen staff generously allowed us to complete the final steps. I ran the oven while students rolled out their dough into ropes and twisted into pretzel shapes. Then they dunked them in hot baking soda water, placed them on cooking sheets and sprinkled their creations with sea salt. Presto! Ten minutes later they were buttering and devouring them. “Das Smeckt gut!”

Making people happy with food may be called emotional eating, but I am of the mind it is celebrating life.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou

 

 

IMO: Vivaldi’s Winter, The Four Seasons

Except for a small lamp, I am sitting in the dark and face the computer screen. It is four in the morning. I’m grading college English composition papers where students compared and contrasted Ulysses S. Grant to Robert E. Lee. After the fifteenth one, my mind wandered and entered that zone where it splits–one side hears music while the other grades. I lose myself. On Pandora, Vivaldi’s “Winter” from Four Seasons begins.

It occurred to me that it has been twenty years since I last listened to Vivaldi’s “Winter.” It was four in the morning. I lived in the wasteland of Illinois during winter. Icy, bitter below-zero cold. The stars flickered, the air crackled, and the sun rose and changed the black into a powder blue sky. The sun teased, but the hope of warmth would not come that day.

I drove ninety minutes from my hometown to Illinois State University. My teenage kids still slept. They would get themselves up and eat breakfast and cross the street to school without my orchestration. Excited was I to be in college, and I fell in love with academia. I was in my thirties at the time and amazed by how little I knew about everything–history, literature, classical music, art, architecture, foreign languages, philosophy, and geography. I was starving and ate it up.

There is nothing to look at during the winter in central Illinois. The corn fields have been harvested. The expanse and flatness and dingy colors combined with the cold temperatures–well, that’s why I live in Arizona now. Two decades ago, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons played in the car. The first cup of coffee had worn off, and I was in that lull where one part of me heard the music while another part drove.

How wonderful then, today at four in the morning, that a time warp occurred. “Winter” by Vivaldi began on Pandora and triggered that long ride to campus. I was that non-traditional student traveling distances to learn. This morning, I am the instructor on the other side of the desk, that is, the other side of the computer who grades the paper I once wrote. Tied by Vivaldi, the music became a mirror, and I sat on both sides and said “Hello.”

IMO: Life Cycles

I was surrounded. It was creepy.
Graduating students “bombed” my room.

Very few jobs offer a conclusive beginning, middle, and end to the year. The rhythm of the academic calendar is psychologically beneficial, and if I hadn’t made a career within it, I would have jumped off the plank a long time ago. Let me explain by showing you an excerpt by me right before a holiday break (Here’s the whole post if you missed it) :

“. . . I never wanted to be a high school teacher. I wanted to be a college teacher. I’m tired that I have to work in the trenches, dealing with obnoxious teenagers, to be politically correct, inspirational, and compassionate to all students every day no matter what inappropriate thing they say or do. I am that sergeant in war movies who answers to officers, some idiotic, some great, always a revolving door, the principals, and superintendents who come and go and meanwhile, my responsibilities compound, the acronyms multiply like rabbits. I can’t believe after 19 years, I have to do this for eight more years before I retire. What’s worse, the classes I created, devoted my heart and soul to were taken away and given to younger teachers. I’m supposed to be a good sport, but I am resentful. I already paid my dues. I feel unappreciated. I am steaming, and the bitterness takes root. Why didn’t my dream come true? My trajectory was the moon. What strange star is this?  And the dark irony in it all? I’m really good at what I do.” 

Today, I reread the words revealing my dour attitude and I’m embarrassed. When you are a teacher, it is like jumping off a high cliff into the riptide. To endure, the veteran teacher learns how to breathe underwater and ride the current. Obviously, in the quote above, the stress was getting to me. Just in the nick of time, a holiday break occurred. Whew!  I could regroup and adjust my attitude.

Most schools in America, especially on the East coast, resume in September after a healthy summer break. Out here in Arizona, we just went back to school. This past week was full of professional meetings, inspirational pre-service gatherings, getting organized, meeting the students, and beginning instruction. For me, a new year has begun. I’m happy to report I’m very excited to begin again. I have hope and ready to inspire and rock and roll. By winter, I’ll start to drag. After the winter break, I’m recharged. Pretty soon it’s spring break, and then after a month, I’m looking ahead at the calendar wishing for summer break at the end of May. In this profession, the pendulum swings back and forth and the force conditions my mood and my worth ethic. Students and teachers wonder if they can make it to the end of the school year. Of course, we can. Faster than we thought. Now the best part comes. Time. To reflect and consider and indulge in the hobbies of my life. The year is over. What’s done is done. Students graduate and move on. When the new year begins, you start with a clean slate. This is the cycle that runs my life.

One of the complaints I had last year was the indignancy I felt for key classes I had worked so hard creating the curriculum and then they were “taken away” and given to others to teach. That’s a problem when you give a lot of emotional sweat and brain cells to a project; you feel a sense of ownership. During times of reflection, I’ve learned I had to get over myself, let go of the ego, or the roots of resentment grow and I risk becoming a bitchy co-worker. My patience and tolerance falter.


Wir werden backen.

Anyway, I changed my situation and it changed my attitude. After securing my endorsement, I’m now the new German teacher. I’m having the best time setting up the best class ever. We have started to speak it and see it and say it and write it. We’re going to make homemade pretzels and have a proper Oktoberfest with kraut and wurst and (root)beer. We’re going to Bavaria in 2020. It’s going to be the best class my students ever had.  Ha!

The cycles of a year. Is yours measured by the seasons? By your job? By your family? By imposing your own cycle?

I opened my classroom and found this note. Lucky, aren’t I?

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